HDD Excels in Ethane Pipeline Construction
Two hurricanes and a wicked winter couldn’t stop Hard Rock Directional Drilling from completing 17.73 miles of drilling work on a 16-in. ethane pipeline project in Southeast Texas.
Hard Rock served as a subcontractor for Primoris Services Corp. — and was the sole directional drilling contractor — on the Phillips 66-owned and operated C2G Ethane Blue Fish project (C2G Pipeline), a 155-mile pipeline that connects the Clemens Caverns storage facility in Brazoria, Texas, to petrochemical facilities in Gregory, Texas, near Corpus Christi.
Construction on the Clemens-to-Gregory pipeline — hence “C2G Pipeline” — kicked off in February 2020 and faced a slew of environmental and weather-related obstacles. Listing off the challenges that Hard Rock overcame almost sounds like the U.S. Postal Service motto: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night prevented these horizontal directional drilling (HDD) experts from completing their appointed crossings.
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From extreme heat through the summer months to the coastal rains of the Gulf Coast to the coldest winter ever in Texas, Hard Rock designed and completed 185 road bores and horizontal directional drills for a total of 93,261 ft, using nine different rigs that ranged from 40,000 to 500,000 lbs, most of which were manufactured by American Augers and Vermeer. The HDD crossings ranged from 60 to 5,100 ft.
Hard Rock crews worked a total of 80,200 man-hours with zero recordable incidents, despite encountering two hurricanes and a winter vortex that dropped temperatures to zero degrees.
The hurricanes forced Hard Rock to shut down operations to evacuate crews and take cover, while the winter blast that made national news posed challenges to equipment and supplies. Crews also faced muddy conditions during the rainy season.
However, these obstacles did not prevent Hard Rock crews from reaching their schedule dates, said general manager Cory Baker. The company completed its final drilling operations in March 2021, and the pipeline is now in service.
“Everyone one of the guys did an amazing job,” Baker says. “They worked together as a team and helped each other. Big projects are challenging because of the long timespan and going through all the seasons, so it’s quite amazing to watch when our crews work together.”
All told, Hard Rock had 137 employees working on the project, with some moving in and out at different times, says Baker, giving thanks to the personnel for a successful project. He especially wanted to highlight the crew leaders Andre Alderete, Andres Elizalde, Kevin Gordan, Nick Mayes, Joseph Longoria, Jerry Longoria and Lupe Caseras.
“It was a great project, and I want to thank Primoris. They were an excellent general contractor to work for,” Baker says. “Philips 66 was also great to work for. It was a true team effort. It was a great effort all around.”
Aside from the weather and environment, Hard Rock also faced challenges stemming from congested pipeline corridors and managing crews spread across 155 miles simultaneously. Not to mention, they also had to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic.
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However, the biggest challenge Hard Rock faced was related to design and engineering changes made during the project, according to project manager Josh McNeil.
“These changes included bore extensions, combined bores into HDDs, and HDD designs to incorporate P.I.’s into drills creating compound curves where the drill turns both vertically and horizontally simultaneously,” McNeil says. “Further design change challenges required the use of geotechnical data, and hydro-fracture analysis reports to mitigate inadvertent releases to ensure minimal impacts to environmentally sensitive areas like rivers, wetlands and levies. These changes were discussed between Primoris management and Hard Rock management prior to commencement of drilling operations to prevent potential schedule overruns.”
McNeil credits the expertise at Hard Rock for overcoming these design changes.
“We were able to overcome the challenges pertaining to these design issues by utilizing our in-house survey/wireline division that performs preliminary profiling, wireline survey and engineer designs utilizing AutoCAD,” he says. “To prevent costly schedule overruns, we deployed three field survey technicians to survey, profile and reengineer 185 bores and HDDs along with an office design engineer facilitating design completion. The field survey technicians commenced surveying in March 2020 and completed the final design in January 2021. The survey/wireline division was instrumental in ensuring our crews were able to complete drills without idle down time due to engineering and design challenges.”
The Hard Rock team learned a number of invaluable lessons on this project, McNeil says.
“We learned how to mitigate project scope creep through the use of strategic management controls,” he says, “like implementing control change processes, utilizing Microsoft Projects and spreadsheets to document changes in scheduling from changes being made or suggested, and increased communications with our project team and the project stakeholders to address changes and forecast impacts of these changes. I learned that we can manage complex projects as a team across all divisions in our company with which this project was completed.”
McNeil says there were a number of things that made him proud about completing the C2G Pipeline project.
“This project was the longest project I have managed with the most simultaneous operations, incorporating nine crews, totaling 137 employees from March 2020 to March 2021,” he says. “I am most proud of how our management team coordinated together to complete this project within the project scope, time, and budget. Corporate management, operations management, production management, safety management, human resource management, and field management utilized company resources, time, and personnel to successfully complete this project. Having been a part of Hard Rock for eight years, this was the most comprehensive approach to project completion that I’ve seen. We achieved all project deliverables within scope, time and budget while combating a global pandemic. That’s pretty amazing.”
Bradley Kramer is contributing staff editor for Trenchless Technology and managing editor of North American Oil & Gas Pipelines.